The Bible is very peculiar when it comes to defining a sin. Most people and religions which utilize the Bible as their source and consider it a sacred text, interpret sin as disobedience to the Divine. They take God’s parental stance towards mankind, where the Divine without reason or explanation tells ‘his children’ to do something, they fail to do it for whatever reason and then punishment commences.
I have already mentioned in the previous post the peculiar set up which lead to the fall of Adam and Eve. It seemed they were in a situation where sin was unavoidable. This does not seem very just and righteous. Man reached for knowledge of what is right and what is wrong and got whacked for it. How were they supposed to know that this was bad?
This theme of knowledge being something craved by men and jealously held on by God or gods seems to repeat itself in many traditions.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus steals fire from Zeus to give it to humanity. The fire can represent purification and knowledge, but in the most mundane version it simply gives warmth, protection and the ability to survive in a primitive world where humans are weak, and defenseless against the terrifying powers of nature. In evolutionary terms, learning to harness the fire is one of the most important events in human pre-history. Yet in the end Prometheus get punished for that.
The Lenape legend of the rainbow crow, has the bird bring the fire down to earth from the Spirit Creator, but in the process the bird loses its beautiful feathers and his singing voice. It’s a price it must pay for this sacred knowledge that is vital to humans.
In the book of Enoch, the Angels come down to earth and marry humans. They teach mankind various arts such as (Form Enoch 1):
“And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals (of the earth) and the art of working them. Semjaza taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armaros the resolving of enchantments, Kokabel the constellations, Ezeqeel the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiel the signs of the earth, Shamsiel the signs of the sun, and Sariel the course of the moon.”
But the Bible, if looked at as a whole, rather than specific instances, shows its own growth. It’s like a diary of ever evolving man-God relation in which the Divine tells, orders, huffs and throws tantrums, then feels sorry and gives man another chance, then the circle repeats, but each time the Divine gets less angry and makes more concessions to reach amends with man. Ultimately sacrificing ‘His own Son’ to pay for a debt that The Most High himself imposed.
Of particular interest here is the book of Job. In it, the author ensures we understand that Job is a righteous man who fears God and shuns evil. We are also made aware of the play behind the scene where the Adversary comes to God and challenges Job’s devotion. The reason why I find this book so peculiar is that for the first time we see a departure from the classic circle of God ordering man, man failing, God punishing then offering reconciliation. This time the Accuser does not tempt man, he tempts God and God succumbs to temptation of a challenge. No matter that Job passes the challenge with flying colors and God restores his health and wealth, there was a price to be paid by Job for God’s play. Job never recovers his sons. The author makes sure to inform us that Job has new sons and daughters, but either I am missing something or the people who wrote it were so cruel as to think that if I lose a child, a new child will make it all better. Maybe time heals the pain for the loss of the loved ones, but it does not take it completely away. So Job was punished and suffered for no reason other than to satisfy God’s curiosity. Here I want to quickly rebuff those who run to God’s rescue claiming that Job was a man and therefore a sinner and was burdened with at least the ‘original sin’ so he was not righteous, cause only God is righteous. First, the author does state in the first paragraph that Job was righteous, so negating that information only negates the scripture itself so shame on you. Second and what I find more important is that God does not need anyone as a Counsel. In fact, in the book, we have the dialogue between Job and his friends. The friends constantly nag that Job must have done something bad to deserve the punishment, while Job denies it. In the end God steps in and proclaims Job to be right. And then comes the whammy: Who are you to question me. Or more exactly Job 38:1-3 says
Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
And Job 40:1-2 says:
“The Lord said to Job: 2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”
These statements are a total turning point in man-God relation. The man is nothing while God is everything. There is nothing man can do to justify himself against God, and Sin plays no part in it, at least not the way we are used to understand it
Let us recall from my previous post that it appeard like man was set up to disobey God in the first place. Now we see that a man who is righteous and blameless (Job 1:1) got his butt kicked and then was told not to question it. Sin played no part here, yet the next words that Job says are another game changers Job 42:1-6
“Then Job replied to the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
After these words, God restores Job to his ‘original’ glory and even rebuffs his friends reminding them that Job did speak the truth. So what happened? Was Job right or wrong? Let’s look at the last two verses above and see the ‘little’ change in Job. Before he heard “of” God but now he “saw” Him, and that made it all better. Even to the point where Job despises himself and repents… for what? This is where the new interpretation of sin as ‘Missing the Mark’ comes handy. We cannot fully understand what Job saw, because we were not there and we can only read about it. But the meeting man-God has raised Job’s awareness from hearing ‘of’ God to ‘seeing’ Him. Whatever that experience was allowed Job to finally ‘Hit the Mark’ and be fully satisfied. We must remind ourselves that Job did not carry the burden of the Sin as we are normally led to understand it. Basically Job has not disobeyed any of Gods laws and yet he was still missing the mark. The conclusion slowly becomes obvious. Sin is not disobedience of God’s law; disobedience is the result of sin. We should first follow the law in order to be closer to understanding of what sin is. Only then can we “repent in dust and ashes” and see the mark so this time we won’t miss it.
Now if you ask me: if sin is Missing the Mark, what is that mark? Unfortunately, I would have to be a righteous man, to be able to see it, so I can only speculate, and that is a subject for the next blog series.
Till then Blessed Be.